Canadian mining giant Teck Resources is purchasing nearly 28 square miles of private land north of Glacier National Park in British Columbia for conservation, the company announced Thursday.
In a deal that would prevent future development in a scenic section of the Canadian Flathead and Elk watersheds, Teck has agreed to spend $19 million to acquire a total of 7,150 hectares, or 17,667 acres, from lumber company Tembec Inc.
The deal includes three separate blocks of land near Fernie considered critical habitats for bull trout, westslope cutthroat, grizzly bears, lynx and bird species.
Teck plans to work with stakeholders in the coming months to determine the exact management and stewardship of the land. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013.
“We will work in cooperation with First Nations, communities and other stakeholders to ensure these lands can be used to protect key wildlife and fish habitat in the Elk Valley and Flathead River Valley now and for the future,” Don Lindsay, president and CEO of Teck, said in a statement.
“Teck is committed to responsible resource development and we strongly believe that it’s possible to have both world-class mining and a world-class environment.”
The three separate blocks of land are in British Columbia’s Elk Valley and Flathead River Valley, including a forested section known as the Flathead Townsite. The Flathead Townsite is 992 hectares, or 2,451 acres, and located roughly 17 miles southeast of Sparwood, a mining town on the banks of the Elk River just up Highway 3 from Fernie.
Teck is purchasing another section of land six miles east of Sparwood, known as Alexander Creek. That block encompasses 3,098 hectares, or 7,655 acres, along the B.C.-Alberta border.
The third parcel, known as Grave Prairie, is 3,059 hectares, or 7,558 acres, and sits roughly five miles northeast of Sparwood.
Following the deal’s announcement, a coalition of conservation groups called Flathead Wild praised Teck’s decision to permanently protect a region identified as integral to the Flathead and Elk watersheds.
“We’re very excited that Teck has made a significant investment to purchase and work towards conserving this important wildlife and fish habitat,” John Bergenske, executive director of Wildsight, a regional conservation group based in Kimberley, BC.
“We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Teck on the details for the stewardship framework for these lands,” said Harvey Locke, strategic advisor to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a joint conservation organization in Canada and the U.S.
The Flathead Wild coalition has longed advocated for permanent protection of B.C.’s Flathead River Valley by creating a national park adjacent to Waterton-Glacier Park that spans Alberta and Montana. The group, which includes Sierra Club BC, CPAWS BC, Headwaters Montana and the National Parks Conservation Association, says that region provides a vital link in the continent’s longest remaining wildlife corridor.
Teck, Canada’s largest diversified mining company and operates five world-class steelmaking coal mines across the border from Montana, has come under fire recently after scientists have reported high levels of selenium and other contaminants in the Elk River watershed. The company has declared its intent to fully address the situation and is in the process of developing a management and mitigation plan.
In July, Teck submitted its terms of reference to the Canadian government, outlining the scope and process for developing the “Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.” Teck said it plans to invest up to $600 million over the next five years for the installation of water diversion and treatment facilities, investments in research and development to improve selenium management, and ongoing aquatic monitoring. One full-scale treatment plant is already under construction at the West Line Creek facility.
In 2010, the U.S. and Canada agreed to ban new energy development like mining and oil drilling on roughly 80 percent of the leased acreage west of Glacier.
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